Elaine might be one of the sweetest human beings, and she brings that same energy into her music. At only 22 years old, the R&B songstress has established herself as a household name in the music industry, even boasting the title of most streamed female artist in her native country of South Africa with her Platinum-certified EP Elements.
In describing herself, she states, “I’m a hopeless romantic, it’s so pathetic. Someone who absolutely loves writing songs about her experiences and finding some sort of healing from doing that.”
From singing in the choir in pre-school to shutting down the stage at various talent shows, Elaine is a true artist, performer, and entertainer, here to bless the masses with her smooth, sultry voice. Exploding onto the scene with her breakout single “You’re The One,” which has seen been certified 3x-Platinum in South Africa, the rising star serves as the first independent artist to reach #1 on the Apple Music Sub-Saharan African charts.
And it doesn’t stop there, the rising star recently graduated from law school in Johannesburg, proving the sky really is the limit when it comes to achieving your goals and aspirations. Most recently, Elaine unleashed the official music video for “Right Now,” holding fans over until the release of her highly-anticipated debut album.
Flaunt caught up with Elaine via Zoom, who revealed how hard it was getting the COVID-19 vaccinations back home in South Africa. Read below as we discuss her sound, her roots in South Africa, biggest influences, recording Elements in her producer’s dorm room, inspo behind “Right Now,” shooting the visual, favorite foods, hobbies outside of music, and more.
How would you describe your sound?
Warm, honest, raw, fuzzy. How it feels when someone gives you a hug after a long day. Welcoming and super accommodating as well.
What was the household like coming up in South Africa?
I grew up in a very small household. It was mainly me, my mom, my dad, and my brother, a very small family. We spent a lot of time listening to music, traveling, and having great conversations. I can definitely say I grew up in a very safe space, a safe environment, which was my family home. I grew up in the choir as well, so there’s always music around me, learning songs, and constantly being active. I had this timetable on my wardrobe, I had activities literally from Monday to Friday. I kid you not. My mom used to print a new one every semester because I’d pick something new up every semester. I was that kid, always busy. Always active, played sports. I had a really fun childhood.
Who were your biggest influences?
Oh my gosh, my greatest of all-time definitely has to be any of the following Black women in no particular order: definitely Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Jill Scott, Aretha Franklin. A lot of soul, a lot of R&B, and a lot of Black women.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I was 6 years old, that’s the first time I actually sang in front of a crowd. It was a school concert, and my teacher asked me to perform “Silent Night.” I remember singing day and night. I said “I could do this, this is fun. It’s a great responsibility to have.” From then, that’s really where my passion grew. That’s when I knew it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
You recorded the ELEMENTS EP in your law school dorm room, that’s crazy!
In my producer’s dorm room! Which is even crazier. I had to go over… at his dorm, there was a visitor’s pass and we could only be there for a certain amount of time. We used to cheat the system and paid off the guards. I think they thought we were up to some dodgy things, [laughs] but we were really recording and making music. I recorded half of it in one of my producer’s dorm rooms and the other half in my other producer’s garage, because there were two producers on the album. I was driving up and down every day between the two producers, trying to put this project together, while studying, writing, and attending lectures. It was a fun time though.
You wanted to be a lawyer?
Yeah! I think I still do, but I’ve decided to follow my heart. The whole law thing is a different me. There’s this academic side to me, but I enjoy the creative side more. I can express myself more and it makes me happier. I’ve decided to follow my heart, like the hopeless romantic I am! Gang gang.
“Right Now” has over 1.3 million views on Youtube in just a few weeks, how does that make you feel?
I’m so proud, and I’m so grateful. I’m always humbled by the warm response that I get from people that support me. It’s not just a win for me, it’s for my whole team as well. We put in so much work and effort so that my vision comes across as I imagined it. I’m proud and I’m humbled, very grateful for everyone involved and part of the journey.
Who or what inspired this record?
This record was for myself. I turned 22 earlier this year in April, so my priorities really really changed from trying to be a good lover, a good partner, or a good whatever to someone else, to be that person for myself. So reciprocating the energy that I’m consistently and constantly giving others to myself. The moment I’m in right now, which is hard because I tend to be overly selfless. I’m learning to keep that same energy with myself, learn to love myself and appreciate myself the way that I should. I wanted to share that with people, with women. A reminder to stay in your bag. You are the bag!
How therapeutic is music for you?
It’s very therapeutic. I’m such a closed off individual, but when I listen to music, create music, or when I write songs, it changes. That’s a form of therapy. It sometimes gets very tiring, always having to be strong, closed off and have your guard up. The moments where I get to create and listen to music feels like a load’s been lifted off my shoulders, and everybody needs that in their life.
What was your creative vision with the visual?
I worked with Nape Phasha, my creative director. With this video, I wanted it to scream women empowerment, confidence, body positivity. I wanted it to highlight my coming of age as well. Because Elements and what people know me for, how people were introduced to me, was me at 19 years old. Compared to who and where I am now, it’s not two different people, but there’s been a lot of growth. I wanted the visuals to really, really symbolize that.
Best memory shooting the visual? How was your day on the boat?
It was so cute! The best memory was being present in the moment. I definitely struggle with being present in the moment, but I was very present in that moment. Very aware of what was going on, it was special. I’ll forever cherish that shoot. It was a really great team and a really dope crew. It was the second music video I shot under COVID regulations, so I’m getting the hang of it.
I remember there was some drama on the boat because we’d gone over the amount of people that were allowed on the boat. We started having to take people off according to who’s the most important. It was the worst because I said “everybody’s important! Everybody deserves to be on this boat,” but we can’t because of COVID. It was a fun time, I’m going to remember that shoot for as long as I can.
You’re shooting a documentary about your journey, what can we expect?
You can expect rawness and me being honest. That’s the one thing I really prioritized, really staying true to who I am. Like I said, I’m very closed off and I don’t like to speak much about myself. I’m super sensitive, but I’m learning to let go and welcome people into my heart and my life. It’s a big moment for me and it signifies how much I’ve grown from the young girl that I was to the independent young woman I’m growing into right now. I’m excited and very eager.
3 things you need in the studio?
Definitely food to keep me happy, because I write sad songs most of the time. Definitely need to keep a happy medium and there needs to be a balance. So some good food.
What kind of food do you like?
It depends, but I usually gravitate toward a pad thai. I really love noodles, so pad thai, hot wings, maybe some fast food. Some really unhealthy stuff. I also need a really good support system when I’m in the studio, so someone I’m really close to. Most of the time it’s Nape that goes with me, otherwise I go with my A&R, Emylie. I really need someone there for me, even if it’s one person there so I feel a sense of comfort and I feel comfortable as well. Lastly, I need my phone. I can’t go to the studio without my phone. I definitely need my phone because I write on my Notes app, so very NB. Very important.
How’d you find your way to Columbia Records?
Funny story. Right after I released my EP in September 2019, I had a bunch of emails coming through. I got super anxious and ignored them all for a long time. When I decided to go through them, I saw an email from Emylie who’s my A&R. She said “Hey, dope EP. Can we talk?” I thought she’s totally a scammer, and put her on ice for some time. Until I said “mmm, hi.” I flew to California and I met her, it was really legit. I was actually at the Sony offices like “ohhh, it’s really legit.” We kept communication for the months to follow. I signed the papers during quarantine, so I had to sign over Zoom. I signed my deal over Zoom.
A lot of deals were put on ice because of the pandemic, it’s dope you got signed during the quarantine.
Yeah, I got signed during peak, peak quarantine. It was one month into quarantine and I was there signing in my living room, with my parents and everybody on Zoom. It felt so surreal, but I also really appreciated the fact I could be home with my family and they could be there to experience it with me. It’s a full circle moment because I’m moving to California in the next couple of weeks, so it’s good.
Are you moving for your music career?
Yes, 100% for my music career. What am I most excited for? I’m most excited to create. I’m excited to live my dream. It’s what I wanted my whole life so to finally see it come to fruition is like “wow, dreams come true!” I’m super excited.
What can fans expect from your forthcoming debut album?
A lot of maturity, a lot of growth. I’m definitely exploring things I was very scared to speak about or explore previously. I’ve grown so much, quarantine has revealed so many things about me that I wasn’t aware of before. There’s been a lot of self-awareness, so much growth. I’ve really found more willingness to love people now, funny enough. I’m super keen to share that and be more open and honest. That’s the only chance I really get to be myself, when I’m creating music. I’m super excited for people to meet the new me. Re-introducing myself to the world and saying “this is me, this is what I got to offer. This is what I think about and obsess about 24/7, which is like love.” [laughs]
What do you like to do for fun, when you’re not recording?
I sleep for a living, really. I live in a shell. I really, really, really love my own space. I have 5 friends I’ve had for 10 years that I’ve grown with. I really enjoy wholesome activities, resting, spending time with my family. A bit of shopping here and there. I’m really into film and TV so I write some stories, which is something I hope to get into one day. Very interested in TV, film production, stuff like that. Hopefully one day, I’m going to direct something really beautiful.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Look out for my debut album coming out soon. Go stream “Right Now.”